TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - A U.S. Marine Corps Reserves training program is a win-win for them and Pima County Transportation.
It all started about five years ago, Pima County’s bridge engineer Dave Zaleski says, when a local Marine reached out during the county’s annual Toys for Tots effort.
That Marine wanted to see if there was any way that heavy equipment Marines could work with the county’s transportation department to get some experience working on roads.
Zaleski, a Marine himself, loved the idea and so the county worked on an inter-governmental agreement to get a program up and running, but things fell through. Then Zaleski found out about what’s called Innovative Readiness Training.
IRT allows for civilian partnerships with the military to allow military members more training. Pima County’s application was accepted nearly three years ago and Innovative Readiness Training, with help from Pima County Department of Transportation, has been ongoing ever since.
Every three months the Marine reservists meet for training exercises on Pima County roads. There are about 12-15 Marines in the unit working with the county. During the training exercises the reservists get to do road repair and general infrastructure work on county roads while also getting other construction experience.
Zaleski says this is important for those reservists because the majority of them are responsible for delivering fuel and a small portion of them are responsible for operating heavy equipment so getting that hands-on experience every three months is crucial to keep their skills from getting rusty.
“We gave them basically a blank palette and said, ‘We’re going to let you go out and train. We’ve got some sites you can work at.' But there was no hard ‘We need you to do this for the county,’" Zaleski said. "We’re giving them a training platform and the benefit is truly to the Marines that are out there getting time in their equipment. We get the benefit of they’re helping fix and maintain some of our roads within the county.”
Previously the reservists built a dirt road near Houghton Road and did they some work along the Pantano Wash in preparation for the monsoon. Their next project will be in May along Redington Road on the northeast side, where they’ll be reconstructing about 10 miles of the road. That project is set to possibly include Marine reservists from the Phoenix area, a sign of the success and positive reputation of the program here in Pima County, according to Zaleski.